Many readers have been in touch asking for clarification of the latest changes to the sporting regulations. Last week the F1 Commission met to discuss the proposals to change some of the sporting regulations to improve the show this season, things which have been discussed for some time, even voted on before.
Many items were on the table including tyre usage, compulsory pit stops, overtaking lanes and extra points for pole and fastest lap.
It will not take long for a driver like Sebastian Vettel, for example, to reach the points career points totals of drivers like Ayrton Senna or Nigel Mansell.
The commission decided against awarding a point for pole position on the sensible grounds that it might decide a world championship on a Saturday rather than on race day.
On the tyres it was agreed that the fastest ten qualifiers will start the race on the tyres with which they finished qualifying.
“In order to introduce a further element of strategy, cars having participated in Q3 must start the race on the same set of tyres with which their grid time was set, ” said the FIA statement.
In some cases this will mean used soft tyres, where the cars behind will be on hards. If a soft tyre is significantly faster in qualifying than the hard and yet is marginal on wear it will mean that the front runners will have to work out which is the better strategy, get grid position but pit relatively early, or qualify on the hards and take a late stop. Most engineers seem to feel that the tyres will be robust enough for most people to stop only once during races.
As last year we may see drivers doing multiple lap runs on hard tyres in qualifying.
But at some places the soft tyre will be the way to go. The big challenge here is going to be finding a compromise on set up, whereby the car is able quickly to warm up the front tyres for a single qualifying lap, but then not overly punish the tyres the next day in race conditions. That’s a tough balance to strike. Remember that with parc ferme conditions, no changes will be allowed to the set up of the cars between qualifying and race.
The Jerez test this week should give us a much better idea of how the cars look after the tyres as it is much tougher on tyres than Valencia. We should see the new medium and possibly harder compound tyres from Bridgestone this week.
There is also a reduction in the number of sets of tyres available to drivers over weekend – down from 14 to 11, of which 6 will be prime and 5 option. On Fridays drivers will have just three sets instead of four.
Although all three qualifying sessions will now be on low fuel, so far I haven’t seen anything from the FIA to the effect that nominated fuel weights will no longer be published after qualifying. If nothing changes, it will be very interesting because it will tell us which team has the best fuel consumption and we will quickly be able to work out figures.
We would also be able to work out over time when drivers have opted to run light, in other words deliberately “underfuel” because they plan to run lean for a period of the race or because they expect a safety car. Remember last season Felipe Massa was forced to run lean due to a refuelling problem and although he lost power and a few places, he nevertheless managed to get to the finish. You will see some of that this year and drivers gambling on safety cars somewhere like Montreal or Monaco, where safety cars are common.
The FIA has indicated that other measures to improve the racing are still under discussion.
The commission also agreed to ban double diffusers from 2011, on the grounds that they undermine efforts to improve overtaking.
Bernie Ecclestone this weekend publicly confirmed that teams are to be allowed to have three ‘no-shows’ at Grands Prix. It appears that these can be taken at any time so it is theoretically possible for a new team to miss the first three races of the season and start at Shanghai on April 18th. It also appears that this rule is not limited to the new teams, but if any of the established teams need to take that route it would be because they are in serious financial problems, as none of them would want to miss points scoring oportunities.